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Reality Check: Ad Targets Recall Challenger's Driving Record

Published On: Jul 19 2011 06:55:05 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 19 2011 08:25:21 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Recall elections are less than a month away, and many have probably noticed political ads on TV.

Third-party groups are out swinging at the candidates in Wisconsin's 14th Senate district, and one ad goes after a candidate on his driving record, not his voting record.

Rep. Fred Clark, D-Baraboo, is challenging incumbent Republican state Sen. Luther Olsen in a recall election.

"On June 4th Rep. Fred Clark received his sixth speeding ticket," the ad says.

WISC-TV found this is true. Clark was stopped in Packwaukee on June 4 for going 60 mph in a 45 mph zone on his way to a campaign event.

According to police reports, Clark showed the Marquette County deputy his Wisconsin state Assembly ID card, and admitted to driving 60, while the deputy informed him he'd passed two signs showing the lower speed limit. When asked about prior tickets, Clark said he'd been stopped for driving 42 mph in a 25-mph zone a year ago, which actually happened in 2009.

"But his record doesn't stop there," the ad says. "Clark has been caught driving with a suspended license and was ticketed twice in one week for rear-ending other drivers."

WISC-TV found this claim needs clarification. Clark told WISC-TV that he was in fact in two crashes in one week, both where he was at fault. However, the suspended license charge was because of an unpaid registration of a vehicle, not because of moving violations.

"Then in 2009, Fred Clark ran this red light, seriously injuring this bicyclist," the ad says, while showing video from a Madison Metro bus of the crash happening.

Clark was cited in August 2009 for running a red light and paid an $88 fine. The bicyclist injured was not asked for his permission for the video to be used in the ad.

The group Wisconsin Family Action paid for the ad. It is a "sister organization" to the Wisconsin Family Council, the group that has advocated for the amendment defining marriage in the state. Family Action is the arm that does "election-related work."

Should a driving record rather than voting record be an issue in a political campaign? That's for voters to decide.

The recall election is Aug. 9.

Send ideas for a "Reality Check" to realitycheck@channel3000.com.

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